Athletes can produce personal bests any time they compete, but for 18 Yukon Special Olympians in London, Ontario, last week, the personal best performances could not have come at a better time.
Competing at the Special Olympics Canada Summer Games, the Team Yukon athletes outdid themselves, with everyone giving their best performance to date. As a result, Team Yukon took home a stunning total of 12 medals over the four sports they competed in.
In the pool, Yukon’s BJ McKay and Cole Robinson-Boivin really knocked it up a notch. In their first-ever swim competition, the two Yukoners logged personal bests in all but one race, winning three medals combined in the process.
“Being that it was both athletes’ first time in a swimming competition, I’m more than pleased with how they swam and handled the pressure of their first event,” said Team Yukon swim coach Christine Larsen.
“They’ve both been very dedicated. Since March, they’ve been swimming three times a week to get ready for these Games, before that it was once a week, so we upped their training and they stayed very focused on the events that they had.”
Shaving a massive 33 seconds off his previous best time in the 50-metre freestyle, McKay swam to a bronze in the event and later took gold in the 25-metre breaststroke. Robinson-Boivin, with one final personal best, won bronze in the 25-metre breaststroke to end the Games.
“They did great,” said Larsen. “They were prepared, got in there and swam their hearts out.”
Yukon’s fivepin bowling team, featuring Aimee Lien, Marvin Hall, Carrie Rudolph, Jean Sebastien Gallant and Garry Chaplin, were burning up the lanes in London with all five bowlers producing personal bests.
“The team spirit was good,” said Chaplin. “I like bowling and I just bowl really hard, trying to knock all the pins down.”
Competing in his first Games in bowling, Hall not only had his best game, he took home a gold medal for his division, becoming the first Yukoner to win gold at a national Special Olympics Games in fivepin.
“They are a great group of people,” said Yukon bowling coach Janine Peters. “Their personal bests were amazing.
“Our group went up against some extremely experienced bowlers. Considering the pools the other provinces had to pull from, I think our guys and girls did extremely well.”
After winning silver at the BC Provincial Summer Games last summer, the same team - with the exception of one player - was back to their winning ways on the pitch. With a 7-2 loss to Timmins, Ontario, in the final, Team Yukon took home the silver - the best result for a Yukon Special Olympics soccer team at a national competition.
“It was the best result we ever had, so as a player I really liked it,” said Yukon’s Chris Lee, who mostly played defence for his team in London. “Our team spirit was pretty good - we have trained for a long time for this.
“I had lots of fun.”
Not only did Team Yukon become the first team, at any level, from the territory to defeat an Ontario team (Team Oakville) at a national competition, they also ran away with a few matches, including a 12-0 win over Nova Scotia, which stands out for Lee.
“Mostly because our offence and defence was playing really well,” he said.
Yukoners were not just hard to catch in the pool, but on the track too.
Having taken home medals last summer at the BC Provincials, Yukon’s Owen Munroe and Jessica Pruden were back at it, adding to their hardware collection and doing so with their best performances.
“They are great athletes to coach. They are always ready to give it their best,” said Yukon athletics coach Lindsay Agar. “They are always positive; they come out to practice and they are ready to give all their energy to track and field. So they are always focused on it and keep improving no matter what competition they are going out to.
“In some preliminaries they would get a personal best and then in the final they would get a personal best, so in some events they were getting two.”
Wasting no time, Munroe won gold in his first event, the 5000-metre, shaving about a minute off his personal best.
“He was running at such a speed we had never seen from him before,” said Agar. “With the humidity and being the first day - so he had one day of rest since traveling - it was a really amazing run for him.”
Munroe also took gold in the standing long jump and narrowly missed the podium with a fourth place finish in the 1500-metre run.
Setting personal bests in almost every event, Pruden won bronze in the shotput, silver in the standing long jump with a personal best, and bronze in the 100-metre with another personal best.
“She had challenges in the preliminaries, but she really came through in the final,” said Agar, speaking of the 100-metre race.
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